It seems around this time of year I become somewhat introspective. I look back on the year behind me and I wrestle with the mystery of the story that confronts me during this season. Both of these things bring me to a place of wonderment. I wonder… where would I be if I didn’t follow after what I believed the Lord was doing in my heart and life. Where would I be if I didn’t believe in the story?
There is power in the story. It is the story we find ourselves in today. It is a story that began too many years ago to count and will hold many more days ahead. The story… well it too is a mystery. We seek to have definitive answers, to understand, to comprehend, to know beyond the shadow of a doubt and believe if there are questions then truth can’t be in its midst.
The story… well the part I find myself once again pondering is that of a girl about 14 years old who is met by a spiritual being who calls her into something absolutely foolish. And quite frankly today she’d be institutionalized for recounting the events of that moment or truly even sharing her story. She’s met by an angel who invites her into her role in the great play of life… he invites her to get pregnant without the sex. He invites her into hardship, difficulty, suffering, joy, amazement, fullness, and mystery. He invites her to step out into the great unknown, for the one who knows. (I know how that feels, sometimes not being invited seems more appealing)
I used to think that Mary.. the virgin mother of Jesus went after her calling with a great sense of peace and assurance. I mean all of the pictures we see of her, she has this peaceful, elegant, fearless, beauty about her. But, with each year that passes by for me… I think more and more that she was afraid… she was probably on a roller coaster ride, one day loving the role she was asked to play and others screaming at the top of her lungs that she wants out and wishes she could reach inside of herself and pull that baby out!
She was human after all. (so am I, so I can relate to fear and find hope in the fact that Mary was just an ordinary woman who was asked to do something foolish and somehow she said yes and lived a great adventure… i don’t always have that faith… oh would i like to though… I think)
I do believe this story to be true. I do think that she really did give birth to the Messiah… why? well because something inside of me tells me it’s true. Sure I could verify my sources, give you all kinds of statistics, I’ve taught the apologetics courses, given seminars and have box after box of books whose entire purpose is to defend this truth. I find myself in a place much like Jesus as he was teaching in one of the parables. The parable, or story, went a little something like this…. There was this guy.. I think he was known to have a little money and his name was… well we’ll call him Larry. Now Larry dies and when he dies he ends up going to a place that seems to be a picture of hell. Now… of course Larry wasn’t too excited about this idea and thought… hey I’ve got to warn all of my family and friends about this place… they need to know the truth! So Larry asks God… hey can you bring me back to life so people will know, if they see me come alive then … then they’ll believe. God looks at him and responds by saying… hey they have the stories of my faithfulness in the past, they see me working every day… they know I exist… if they don’t believe me with all I’ve thrown before them… then they won’t believe me at all.
I find myself at this story tonight because I find myself being Larry so very often. I find myself in a place where I want proof. I need the definitive. I don’t want the mystery. And yet it’s in the mystery where the truth can be found. It’s in giving into the unknown to find the known. I often embrace this mystery without question. But why? Why do I believe and others do not… why is it that I can embrace a story that seems so fictional and yet in the very same breath question, “could this really be?”
This is not a new reality. It is the paradox of faith. Embracing truth and mystery in the same breath. In one of my classes in seminary I was encouraged by my professor to earn the right to cry mystery. To study until you drive yourself crazy and then throw your hands up in the air and cry mystery.
Larry, the guy in the story Jesus was telling, he wanted to go back, get a second chance and tell all of his friends and family to believe in the foolish things. Or even more accurate, to believe, because it’s foolish not to.
Not too long ago I was wrestling with the idea of was this whole thing true. (I’m sure I’ll have my day again… I think it’s part of growing in our faith) I can remember plain as day throwing up my hands and saying, “God, if this whole thing is a lie, then I’ve given my whole life to a lie and I’ve wasted a lot of money on a degree that is lying to me…” I sat on that thought for a long time. I had heard the story of Mary too many times, it had lost it’s power and was beginning to sound foolish. I had parsed one too many verbs and had taken apart too many verses… my mind was tired, my faith was weak. I cried out to God to prove that he was there and this was truth… did he?… well I don’t know that he showed me in that moment , but he did give me a peace enough in my mind to give my mind a rest. I decided that even if the whole thing wasn’t true and God wasn’t really there and Jesus was just some guy who had lost his mind and led people astray, that I was glad to be following Jesus’s way. His way works. I knew I would live completely differently if I didn’t put into pracatice any of what Jesus was teaching or tried to invite others into that same reality. Mary, I’m sure she felt the same way. Sure why not, I’ll have a baby, I’m foolish enough just to believe that it could happen.
Crazy things happen when one begins to follow in the way of Jesus. I begin to do things that are seemingly foolish.
this is where I find myself as I look back on this year. In January I went on a sabatical. I was going to counseling every week, praying, seeking the Lord, loving my couch, resting and healing. I was also being broken. March came and i went to Mexico, April I decided what to do with the next year, August I readied myself to move, September I moved (for four months), September I met someone who has changed me for the better, October I decided to stay in San Diego, November I’ve been invited into a whole new role in my story in San Diego… and so so so much more. I see people I love hurting and want to take it away, I want to answer questions, I want to give away faith, I want to answer the questions found in the mystery… and God… He pretty much puts His hand over my mouth and shushes me.
My own story is one that is filled with things that may appear foolish to the world and are so real to me. In that… I can relate to Mary. i can relate to Mary’s fear and peace combination.
I find myself at the end of this rambling, wondering if I made any sense or if I’ve just uprooted a bunch of questions and collected them as thoughts to throw on a page. I have so many more from where those came. This time of year gets me thinking. It gets me thinking about the past year and all the changes and how I’ve seen God at work and it brings me to a place of wondering… and questioning the mystery of the story we find ourselves in.
It’s kinda a good combination. Today I’m at rest in the mystery, embracing it and the idea of truth at the same time. and why this today…..
well it’s a mystery